PTSA discusses academic changes in third monthly meeting

This+%E2%80%9Cstress+tree%2C%E2%80%9D+developed+by+the+MVHS+Challenge+Success+team+during+a+working+session+at+the+Fall+Conference%2C+displays+the+causes+and+effects+of+stress+at+MVHS.+The+CS+team+aims+to+create+research-based+solutions+to+increase+student+engagement%2C+reduce+stress+and+discuss+long-term+success.+Photo+used+with+permission+of+PTSA+President+Jim+Cunningham.
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PTSA discusses academic changes in third monthly meeting

This “stress tree,” developed by the MVHS Challenge Success team during a working session at the Fall Conference, displays the causes and effects of stress at MVHS. The CS team aims to create research-based solutions to increase student engagement, reduce stress and discuss long-term success. Photo used with permission of PTSA President Jim Cunningham.

This “stress tree,” developed by the MVHS Challenge Success team during a working session at the Fall Conference, displays the causes and effects of stress at MVHS. The CS team aims to create research-based solutions to increase student engagement, reduce stress and discuss long-term success. Photo used with permission of PTSA President Jim Cunningham.

This “stress tree,” developed by the MVHS Challenge Success team during a working session at the Fall Conference, displays the causes and effects of stress at MVHS. The CS team aims to create research-based solutions to increase student engagement, reduce stress and discuss long-term success. Photo used with permission of PTSA President Jim Cunningham.

This “stress tree,” developed by the MVHS Challenge Success team during a working session at the Fall Conference, displays the causes and effects of stress at MVHS. The CS team aims to create research-based solutions to increase student engagement, reduce stress and discuss long-term success. Photo used with permission of PTSA President Jim Cunningham.

Karen Feng

Meeting topics included the Common Core, STAR testing, accreditation and LeGos.

The PTSA held its third monthly meeting in the library on Oct. 22 from 7 to 9 p.m., mainly focusing on this year’s shifts in the school curriculum. The following topics were discussed at the meeting.

Common Core

Assistant Principal Ben Clausnitzer discusses MVHS’ shift toward the Common Core. 45 states across the nation have adopted these new standards. Photo by Karen Feng.

Assistant Principal Ben Clausnitzer discusses MVHS’ shift toward the Common Core. 45 states across the nation have adopted these new standards. Photo by Karen Feng.

Assistant Principal Ben Clausnitzer and Principal April Scott started the meeting with a discussion of the shift to Common Core. Rather than using the old “laundry list” of state standards, as Clausnitzer calls it, California has shifted to new shared K-12 English and math standards.

“[Common Core is] engaging students in speaking and writing using textual evidence to support arguments,” Clausnitzer said.

STAR testing

The shift to Common Core is tied to the move away from STAR testing. In the past, freshmen, sophomore and junior students would undergo five days of testing. With California joining the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, the state wants to assess the effectiveness of the new style of teaching. The new assessments are no longer multiple-choice; instead, they are online, open-ended and with an emphasis on reasoning and approach.

“Students like to say, ‘Just tell me the answer and tell me how to get there’,” Scott said. “We want to go, ‘Show me what the thinking is.’ The answer may not be as important as the steps.”

The first full field test will be run in the spring of 2014. Although the results will not count, there is a seven-year projection to cover all four grades. The SBAC website offers a variety of sample questions and tests.

“We think [students are] going to struggle. The whole state feels this way, it’s not just us,” Scott said. “We haven’t asked them to do problems like this before.”

WASC accreditation

Another impending academic shift is tied to MVHS’ accreditation under the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which occurs every six years. Accreditation ensures that the school maintains suitable standards in the classroom. The process will culminate with a visiting team in March to evaluate every classroom over three days.

Accreditation is also a self-reflective report, as the administration is currently attempting to honestly assess its performance and “get the whole story,” as Scott puts it. Based on feedback from teachers, parents and students, the administration will form a six-year action plan and vision for the school that will be critiqued and adapted as necessary.

LeGos

Related to this accreditation process are the newly developed Monta Vista Learning Goals, or LeGos — an acronym developed by math teacher Jon Stark. Instead of using WASC’s acronyms, MVHS decided to rename the process based on the building blocks of what teachers do every day. The LeGos focus on the such goals as: “[Applying] creative thinking in a flexible and open-minded manner” and “[Demonstrating] respect for diverse cultures, languages and opinions.”
[blockquote]”MVHS is a very high-achieving school. But at times, I think things go a little crazy with people’s expectations. Can we continue to maintain this high-achieving culture and turn down the gauge a bit? What we hope to see this year and figure out is: What is success, and what does it mean to be successful at a school at MVHS?” – PTSA President Jim Cunningham[/blockquote]

“Not every class will cover every [LeGo], but over the whole experience we want students to say yes, they are better thinkers, information processors, communicators, collaborators and self-managers,” Clausnitzer said.

Challenge Success

This “stress tree,” developed by the MVHS Challenge Success team during a working session at the Fall Conference, displays the causes and effects of stress at MVHS. The CS team aims to create research-based solutions to increase student engagement, reduce stress and discuss long-term success. Photo used with permission of PTSA President Jim Cunningham.

This “stress tree,” developed by the MVHS Challenge Success team during a working session at the Fall Conference, displays the causes and effects of stress at MVHS. The CS team aims to create research-based solutions to increase student engagement, reduce stress and discuss long-term success. Photo used with permission of PTSA President Jim Cunningham.

The PTSA updated its progress on Challenge Success, for which it is contributing $9,000 of the $12,000 for the comprehensive package. CS, a Stanford University-based program which aims to provide research-based tools to reduce student stress and define long-term success, updated regarding its first on-site team meeting that afternoon. CS’ next steps include working on a vision for change and an action plan and working to get more of the school community involved.

“MVHS is a very high-achieving school. But at times, I think things go a little crazy with people’s expectations,” Cunningham said. “Can we continue to maintain this high-achieving culture and turn down the gauge a bit? What we hope to see this year and figure out is: What is success, and what does it mean to be successful at a school at MVHS?”

Other topics

The PTSA will be holding part two of the highly successful “Road Map to College” lecture by Stanford lecturer and MVHS parent Syrous Parsay on Oct. 26. The last meeting received 135 RSVP’s, which had to be cut off for the 75 participant limit.

The PTSA also discussed the conclusion of the Reflections program, an art contest with the theme of “Believe, Dream, Inspire”. With only 13 submissions in all six categories, most contestants will progress to the county level. The PTSA hopes to increase publicity far before the Oct. 11 deadline in the future.

The PTSA will meet next on Nov. 26 with a special speaker from Unity Care on substance abuse and encourages interested community members to explore the newly created PTSA website, which includes a blog by Cunningham and a rolling calendar.

“I really enjoyed looking at Amanda [Hockley’s PTSA] website, which was created two months ago,” PTSA historian Matangi Rajamani said. “I didn’t realize it was such a treasure trove of information.”